Wednesday, April 23, 2008

DC Launches Bike Sharing Program

Like ZipCar, but with bikes!
DC is launching a first extensive bike-sharing initiative in the US. Registered participants can access 120 "smart bikes" at 10 different locations in the downtown area. Retrieving the bike is easy.
  • Go to any bike station (see photo)
  • Wave your SmartBike DC user card in front of the card reader
  • Follow instructions on screen
  • Retrieve assigned bike from rack
Bike-sharing has been popular throughout Europe, with cities like Paris, Barcelona or Stockholm using them. Will it work in car-infatuated America? That's a good question.
And it only costs $39.95 per year. I assume that's for unlimited use?

Here is a map of rental locations.

The post also mentions ZipCar, a hourly car-sharing service. I've been interested in trying that out. They have a drop-off spot less than a block from my townhouse and typically have MiniCoopers available. GMU students can join for only $25/year and I believe the rental rates are $8.50/hour or $65/day. That includes gas, insurance, and parking and there's no maintenance to worry about. For people living in the city, it's a great option -- far cheaper than owning a vehicle. Since moving to Arlington and living walking distance to school and a block from the nearest subway stop, I typically only drive once every week or two. If my truck doesn't make it through grad school, I expect to use ZipCar rather than buying a new vehicle.

Both ZipCar and BikeSmart are two great examples of what I mentioned about how the modern economy makes simple living far easier than ever before -- making it possible to make do with less stuff than in times past. The beauty of the free-market is that in not only makes greater levels of consumerism possible, but greater simplicity as well. This is a topic I'd like to explore in more depth, maybe once exams are over.

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